Log in

Teachers, don't put students in the box of your judgement.

Started by Tara O'Neill 28 Sep 2013 8:47am () Replies (14)

As teachers it is very easy to make judgements about students. Actually, as humans we tend to judge others very quickly. When we do judge someone, we basically make a reason for them being the way that they are. I have found that it can cause us as teachers not to see a situation properly and therefore, we may not teach effectively, worse still we may damage a student for life.

When my number one daughter was 6 years old, she didn’t like school. She would scream and it was really hard for me to leave her in the morning. When she was 7, I had to get help to leave her. She was very anxious. One morning the Principal had to hold her while I left. Some teachers at the school thought she was like that because of bad parenting. At six years of age she was diagnosed with Autism. PDDNOS to be specific. Even this long label made no difference. The judgement clouded the ability of the teachers to help.

Just last week, number three daughter who is now six and a half years old, came out of the class saying she had got to level 21 with her reading. The teacher came out and I said to number three daughter, “you must have great teachers”. The teacher repled “I think what you are doing at home must be amazing.” 

I can assure you that the way we raised both girls is the same, in regard to reading at least. If anything, my youngest daughter has less input because I am working fulltime. 

It is a reminder that students achieve at different rates for lots of reasons. I teach a whole class of children who are struggling with learning. I often fall into the trap of trying to work out why! Sometimes it is necessary to know why, as there are specific ways we can change and help students to learn. But often as teachers, we don’t need to know. What we do need to do is to take each student and consider carefully, what will inspire them to learn? How can we help them to feel comfortable in the learning space? How can we support them to take steps to learn new strategies? How can we praise them for their efforts? How can we believe in them for the future?

Teachers, don’t put students in the box of your judgement, don’t limit them to what you believe as you may be teaching a future life changer. 

My number one daughter is fundraising to go to India on a mission to help people at the Leprosy Mission. No one, including myself would have thought that this would have been possible when she was 6 years old. 




  • Tara O'Neill (View all users posts) 29 Sep 2013 4:49pm ()

    Any way I forgot to put in the question to discuss.   How do we help other teachers see the need to accept all students?  How do we teach people to see what is important and not what presents itself on the surface?  I still hear of students who are not diagnosed or understood even that are made to suffer because they are seen as naughty when they just don't fit the box being imposed on them.  

  • susan wood (View all users posts) 19 Oct 2013 1:01pm ()

    Those are all great questions. Empathy is a really important virtue that is essential for a teacher. I agree we need to look deeper and see that these kids can learn in spite of their disability. They are often extremely intelligent students who need other ways to learn and it is up to us to support them in finding those ways. Celebrate with these students and find the joys that come from teaching and knowing them.

  • Tara O'Neill (View all users posts) 21 Oct 2013 7:01am ()

    Yes, and Empathy leads to acceptance and this is very powerful.  If you feel accepted, you feel valued and I believe you are able to learn.  If you know that someone believes you can do something, you will give it a go.  If you thiink they think you will fail, then why bother trying.  I believe we have to tell our learners that they are accepted.  We need to tell them that they are valued and we need to tell them that they can succeed.  If we do this in font of others then it is more powerful.  One teacher I know, made sure her student with dyslexia joined her top reading group.  He had lots to offer and  it gave the message to the class that he could learn and participate in "hard stuff".  For the student, he felt that nothing was impossible.

  • Anne Kenneally  (View all users posts) 29 Sep 2013 5:59pm ()

    Hi Tara,

    What an incredibly powerful post.  For my teaching journey, I have always tried to model 'not judging a book by its cover' and valuing every story.  I think we need to listen to, hear and try to walk a little along the life journey of each student.  The way I tried to model this in my class was by continually introducing and sharing the passion, talents, and skills of all.  Ako is the most powerful concept we value with us all being learners and teachers in aspects all the time. I also used to timetable in sessions that learners signed up to to share their passion or talent with others.  I guess, the greater we model valuing everyone as an individual, the greater we are able to interact, network and share. With the incredible power of technology to act as an engager, enabler, and on-ramp to success, the greater we are equipped to really meet the needs of all our learners.  We are also incredibly able to set up our programmes to meet individual needs, and group needs and to ensure we use a HUGE variety of assessment methods and approaches.  I also think that the way we model celebrating others and their strengths is a hugely important part in the journey of self-respect and resilience.  Thanks for sharing such a powerful insight!

  • Tara O'Neill (View all users posts) 29 Sep 2013 7:34pm ()

    Thank you Anne,  it is good to be reminded about Ako.  Taking time to listen to each other seems to be a key.  I found that as I recently became the student in my class and the students became the teachers to me - I was learning to play MineCraft - the depth of relationship deepened,  the confidence and motivation of the students grew.    Similarly if students are able to share their passions, it allows them opportunity to be the teacher, the one with skills and knowledge.  In order to do this, we firstly need to remember that everyone has something worth sharing and giving.  

  • Anne Kenneally  (View all users posts) 30 Sep 2013 3:12pm ()

    Hi Tara, What a wonderful sentence... everyone has something worth sharing and giving.  That is truly what we need to celebrate!


  • Mark Maddren (View all users posts) 30 Sep 2013 6:12pm ()

    I loved the learners that had been labelled "lazy". After working with them a bit I usually found the person who gave the student that label was actually labelling themselves. They had not bothered to try and know the student generally and used the same old average fit teaching. How do we help them? Maybe give them a dose of Todd Rose - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eBmyttcfU4.

  • Chrissie Butler (View all users posts) 01 Oct 2013 9:38am ()

    Kia ora Tara. Thank you for such a personal post.

    What you have written hits home on so many levels. The biggest thing is seeing the student as a person of value first, recognising the student's strengths and then working with others to work out next steps to nurture those stengths and talents whilst also providing support in other areas.

    This video of a student called Piper sums up how things can feel from a student's perspective. I tried to imagine what I would have done if I had been one of Piper's teachers. Like your 6 year old she has a stunning vision for seeing her part in making big things happen.

    You can also view the video "Dyslexia doesn't define me" on YouTube with it's interactive transcript.

    So what would we do if Piper was in our class? How could we support a student like Piper?

  • Tara O'Neill (View all users posts) 02 Oct 2013 9:33pm ()

    I am now crying.  Yes, I am a mum first.  I also have a son who is severely dyslexic.  He is 13 years old and reads at under a 7 year old level. Tomorrow he is going to his first paid job. A lady at REAP came to a class on I Pads, that I was taking at my school and that my son was helping me out at and she was so impressed with him that she asked him to go and help her and a collegue at their office with their website.  

    What would I do for a student like Piper?  I teach 9 students like Piper.  I have been fortunate to be given a year to trial a programme called the Davis Programme.  This is what helped my son so much.  You may say, yes but he still can't read.  I know that, but that is mainly because we still haven't completed the programme but the main point is that the essence the Davis Programme is that Dyslexia is a Gift.  So when he was 8 years old he completed the first part of the Davis Programme.  He was a changed child.  It helped him to see that their was nothing wrong with him, but everything right with him.  He had a gift as his brain works completely differently to others.  Piper is so talented in painting.  My sons brain like Pipers is able to look at objects in his brain from different angles and translate this into the world. And because of this gift, when he goes to look at letters and treats them in the same way as an object a 'd' looks like a 'p' or a 'b' as his minds eye scans around.  He doesn't have a focus point.   I could go on but I will finish with this.  My son is happy and looking at life for things he can do.  Not being able to read does not mean not learning.

    My number one daughter is going on a trip to India.  I had to put on the health form that she has/had Asphergers Syndrome.  My daughter was very unhappy about this, but probably not for the reason I had thought of.  She said  "Mum, you have got to listen to me.....   Whenever you tell people I have Asphergers.... they treat me differently.  All I want is to be treated like everyone else."  

    Sorry to go on, but you know when things get you deep inside......  

  • Chrissie Butler (View all users posts) 02 Oct 2013 10:35pm ()

    Yep I'm with you. In the US there is a whole heap of work going on around creativity and dyslexia. 

    A paper that I really like, both because of its humour and it's presentation is "2020's Learning Landscape: A retrospective on Dyslexia". Take a look and see if what David Rose and Ge Vue talks about resonates with you both as a teacher and a parent.

    And Tara thank you for your open reflection both as a teacher and a parent. There are, I am sure, many of us out here in the VLN , myself included who can recognise the journey of being both a passionate educator and also a parent with children who needed different shaped learning environments to thrive.

    Let's keep talking :-)

  • Tara O'Neill (View all users posts) 03 Oct 2013 3:35pm ()

    2020's Learning Landscape: A retrospective on Dyslexia, helped to put ideas into order.  Thank you.

     Questions that arise are "When do we stop instruction if reading is difficult and when do we provide tools to help learning like text to speech? "  Or do we continue to offer both?   Any observer would say, if you give a student a tool to help them read, they will use it and not learn to read themselves.  I am pretty sure that this has been shown not to be true in the sense that if the learner is reading along with the print they are still learning to read.  

    What about National Standards.  These seem to be a hinderence.  As far as I am aware the students need to read the print with their eyes in order to pass a level and for writing they miss out on points if it is not written by their hand?  How will we deal with these issues in New Zealand betweent the ages of 5 and 13?  So for many students they are kept at the de-coding level and not exposed to comprehension skills at a highter level.  This is a problem.

    I have gone down the road of making sure my dyslexic son loves stories, loves learning firstly and most importantly.  We worked really hard to make sure de-coding never got in the way of his love for books.  Early on we read for him or bought him CD's.  Now he has a kindle.  We tried all the programmes offered at Primary School - non of them worked, even 2 years with a Literacy Specialist teaching him 3 times a week for 45 mins.  At the end of that I decided to intervene and pay for him to do the Davis Course.  At the same time I thought that if that didn't work or help then there would be no more intervention.  Enough is enough.  LIke Piper says,  she just wanted out of the special intervention class.  I have since said no to interventions like Multi-lit.

    Question - Do we have a diagnostic tool or a way of balancing up students strenghts and weaknesses in order to predict their likelyhood of reading de-coding health?  Much like I just took tests to check the likelihood of heart disease.  It could possibly include the ability to hear sounds?  This would tell us that more phonics is not going to help.  I talked to a RTLB recently about this and he said, if he finds students who are weak in phonics then he gives them more.  I said to him, why would you do that, its their weakness, why not work with their strenghts?  Hence why I teach using the Davis Method - it is visual and creative.  Kids love it.  But how do you know when to call it quits and when to try something else?  

    Also the tool to diagnose potential would need to include something like a creative component.  The ability to use picture thoughts to solve problems.  It would need to include a listening type test like a PAT - I know several dyslexic type students who excel in that.  




  • Chrissie Butler (View all users posts) 22 Oct 2013 9:43pm ()

    Kia ora Tara

    Thank you for you great post. I'm wondering if we might start some separate threads on some of the ideas thoughts you have outlined. Maybe one on effective supports/approaches related to dyslexia and another around text-to-speech and maybe another on innovations in assessment. Then we could ask our UDL group colleagues and the wider community to share a few thoughts.

    I'll kick them off but keep them quite open and we can see if we can pull some thinking togther.

  • Tara O'Neill (View all users posts) 22 Oct 2013 9:45pm ()

    Sounds like a good plan.  Thanks.  

Join this group to contribute to discussions.